The days of election signs proliferating along Canberra’s roadways during campaigns appear to be over, with new laws to cap the number of corflutes candidates can use and restrict the use of parked vehicles to display advertising.
The measure is part of ACT Government legislation to be introduced to the Legislative Assembly, which will amend the Territory’s electoral laws to better police political donations, make voting easier, and improve road safety.
The government says the changes, in response to recommendations from the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety’s review of the 2020 Territory election, will strengthen public confidence in how elections are run in the ACT.
The legislation restricts the number of roadside signs on public land, limiting them to 250 corflutes per election candidate to improve road safety and reduce waste.
Roadside signs will also be banned on major roads with speed limits of or greater than 90 km/h, again for road safety reasons.
In their submissions to the committee, the Canberra Liberals wanted to continue displaying roadside corflutes during election campaigns, while Labor suggested introducing restrictions including a candidate cap and a reduction in the number of locations they could be displayed.
The Greens have consistently called for a ban on placing corflutes on public land and did not display any corflutes during the 2020 election.
The new laws also create offences for parking a vehicle with advertising or electoral matter in a declared place, attracting on-the-spot fines of $640 and a maximum court-imposed fine of $3200.
Existing illegal parking fines would also increase by $50 if the vehicle displays advertising material or electoral matter.
Special Minister of State Chris Steel said there would be exemptions for certain vehicles and advertising.
“The intention here is to restrict advertising where a vehicle is effectively being used as a large sign or billboard and is illegally or unsafely parked,” he said.
“This will mean that Canberrans won’t have to view billboard-style commercial or political advertising attached to cars and trucks parked on arterial roads that could distract drivers, or cause a collision hazard.”
The laws are also aimed at providing greater scrutiny of political donations.
Political donations that reach the amount threshold will need to be reported in real time to the Electoral Commission within seven days and foreign political donations will be banned altogether.
“The importance of ensuring the integrity of and public confidence in the ACT’s voting system cannot be overstated,” Mr Steel said.
“It is core to our democracy and the right of every voter to know how candidates, politicians and political parties are funded and that they are not being influenced by foreign actors.”
The committee had recommended political donations be capped at $10,000, and that donations from the gambling industry should be scrapped.
The laws will make it easier for people to vote, allowing anyone to cast a ballot during the early voting period, which will now occur around two weeks before an election.
Voters with impaired vision will be able to use electronic and telephone voting, while overseas voters will also be eligible for early voting.
Mr Steel said the legislation also ensured that homeless Canberrans could exercise their right to vote, with the Electoral Commission able to offer mobile polling where people in this situation are most likely to gather.